by Dennis Crouch
WIldTangent v. Ultramercial (Supreme Court 2012) Docket No 11-962
The Supreme Court has rejected another Federal Circuit patentable subject matter decision with a GVR and has ordered the appellate court to review its patentability decision with further consideration of Mayo Collaborative Services v.Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 566 U.S. ___ (2012). In its standard GVR language, the Supreme Court wrote:
The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted [G]. The judgment is vacated [V], and the case is remanded [R] to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for further consideration in light of Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 566 U.S. ___ (2012).
The patent at issue in this case claims a particular method for distributing copyrighted products over the Internet. Patent No. 7,346,545. The basic gist of the invention is that the consumer receives a copyrighted product in exchange for viewing an advertisement -- and it all takes place over the internet and with a particular monetization scheme.
In its broadly written opinion, the Federal Circuit (Rader, C.J.) found the claimed invention patentable under Section 101 based upon the requirement that a computer be used to perform the method and the programming complexity required to carry out the claimed elements. The court wrote that while "the mere idea that advertising can be used as a form of currency is abstract, just as the vague, unapplied concept of hedging proved patent-ineligible in Bilski,...the '545 patent does not simply claim the age-old idea that advertising can serve as a currency. Instead, the '545 patent discloses a practical application of this idea."
Following the Federal Circuit decision in Ultramercial, the Supreme Court decided Mayo v. Prometheus. In that case, the Supreme Court rejected the Prometheus patent as effectively encompassing an unpatentable law of nature. That revives the historic notion that the scope of knowledge held in the prior art is an important aspect of the Section 101 analysis.
The Supreme Court issued a parallel GVR in the gene-patent case of Myriad Genetics. Other pending 101 appeals include Fort Properties v. American Master Lease (en banc petition); Accenture Global v. Guidewire; Bancorp Services v. Sun Life; and others.
Claim one the '545 patent reads as follows:
1. A method for distribution of products over the Internet via a facilitator, said method comprising the steps of:
a first step of receiving, from a content provider, media products that are covered by intellectual-property rights protection and are available for purchase, wherein each said media product being comprised of at least one of text data, music data, and video data;
a second step of selecting a sponsor message to be associated with the media product, said sponsor message being selected from a plurality of sponsor messages, said second step including accessing an activity log to verify that the total number of times which the sponsor message has been previously presented is less than the number of transaction cycles contracted by the sponsor of the sponsor message;
a third step of providing the media product for sale at an Internet website;
a fourth step of restricting general public access to said media product;
a fifth step of offering to a consumer access to the media product without charge to the consumer on the precondition that the consumer views the sponsor message;
a sixth step of receiving from the consumer a request to view the sponsor message, wherein the consumer submits said request in response to being offered access to the media product;
a seventh step of, in response to receiving the request from the consumer, facilitating the display of a sponsor message to the consumer;
an eighth step of, if the sponsor message is not an interactive message, allowing said consumer access to said media product after said step of facilitating the display of said sponsor message;
a ninth step of, if the sponsor message is an interactive message, presenting at least one query to the consumer and allowing said consumer access to said media product after receiving a response to said at least one query;
a tenth step of recording the transaction event to the activity log, said tenth step including updating the total number of times the sponsor message has been presented; and
an eleventh step of receiving payment from the sponsor of the sponsor message displayed.